Something for the weekend, Sir?

A ‘dirty weekend’? Hooooooo …… YES, INDEED! Gimme gimme gimme………

But, it’s NOT what I think that you might be thinking right now …………. honestly! No - what it is, in reality, is a rather shameless rhetorical ploy to grab your attention since I am, in actual fact, referring to a recently enjoyed weekend (4th to 8th MAY) of motorcycle trail riding in Southern Spain. A hot, sweaty, dry, dusty and VERY dirty weekend, for sure!

But, before I delve into a bit more detail about this particular dirty weekend, I need to step back by a year and a half or so to provide a little additional context for this particular Spanish excursion.

A former work colleague and regular, longstanding biking friend and I were ‘chatting’ during the covid lockdown and deep into that weird, post-pandemic slough of motorcycle emptiness about getting in some much needed riding in a warmer, sunnier and drier environment than is usually afforded by dear old Blighty in general and Devon in particular! My friend, Tony, had found a company in Southern Spain offering a variety of options for motorcycle tours and/or bike hire and we decided that we were definitely going to give this idea a bit of impetus - and some not inconsiderable financial input - and take the plunge with a 5 day trip of 2 days travelling and 3 days riding local roads and trails with a guide.

The anticipation of the trip was, for both of us and for a time, a riot of “¡OLE!”, “¡HOLA!” and “¡VIVA ESPANA!” amidst, of course, the wildly exciting prospect of a hyperboost of vitamin D and a brief but total suspension of the reality and mundanity of everyday working life …… ermmmmm……… for Tony, that is - my working life at that time was a Saturday job at an Exeter ‘prestige’ car main dealership, so not something that could really become depressingly tiresome or oppressive, thankfully.

Any road up, m’duck, we took the plunge, booked the return flights from Bristol to Malaga and confirmed our 3 day riding tour booking then sat back and patiently counted down the then wet, rainy and miserable months, weeks and days before our Andalucian Adventure could begin. You know what that “dog day” period is like where you kind of forcibly dismiss or suppress any excited anticipation of some forthcoming event just in case it then feels even further away than it actually is? Well, that period seemed to last forever and, as is the way of these cyclical things, it then suddenly becomes real with the burgeoning rush of “compressed time” and the excitement of months having become weeks; weeks having become days, and days having become………’WHOA – HOLY CRAP, we’re leaving in a few hours!!’ “Where’s my boot socks, hun?” "Have you seen that white t-shirt I had the other day?” “D’you think I’ll need a lightweight jacket, just in case?” yada…yada…yada - you know the scene!!

As it was, that trip was something of the proverbial curate’s egg – in that it was, in reality, good in parts but, in total, not exactly the sum of those parts, or, indeed, what had been anticipated! That’s not to say it was even remotely bad – and for that reason (and, I’ll freely admit, my failing memory) I’m not actually going to name the organisation involved because a degree of culpability for the disappointment must rest with us as the end users and the expectations that I think we carried into the deal. Perhaps some of the failure on our part was in having no real-world experience of the geographical environment of the area; of the ruggedness of the terrain and the challenges it can – and does – present, and the limits of our experience of that kind of riding environment. Added to that we were on bikes that, whilst not totally UNsuited to the off road environment, weren’t what I would, personally, have chosen to manhandle over the tight twisting, steep, narrow and often very rough mountain tracks along which we were led.

If I were to try to score the overall experience on a scale of 1 to 10, I guess I’d probably look at the outcome being in the 5-7 range – it DID have some very good moments and it gave us some truly memorable experiences of the “real world” rural Andalucian way of life in attractive, small mountain villages where that real Spanish life we observed and enjoyed could have been in an entirely different universe to that which existed just a few thousand feet down in elevation and just a few miles away by narrow, twisting and turning mountain roads down to the coastal plains, busy towns and tourist resorts of the Costa del Sol.

There are many, many motorcycle tour and hire companies in Southern Spain so, beyond what I will outline below regarding my most recent experience, I would advise anyone that might perhaps be thinking about doing some trail riding in the area, to do some research and find out upfront exactly what types of bikes are involved; the nature of the off-road terrain that will be ridden; and the usual daily distances covered, and to carefully weigh each and all of these factors against your personal experience of what can be some very challenging, rough off-road conditions.

But, back in the room and back to the present! From my initial online research for this most recent trip, I distilled the available offerings that I could find through relatively simple web searching down to 6 companies within a reasonable distance of MALAGA. I weighed up their location; their costs; their packaged offerings (accommodation/food/fuel, transfers, etc.) but, perhaps most importantly, their ‘weapons of choice’ – the physical size of the bikes used - and I tabulated these results (plus a couple of ‘oddball’ ideas) into a sort of cost/benefit table that I shared with my friend Tony for him to ponder and consider.

From this information Tony and I each came to the conclusion that the company offering a broad range of benefits such as an inclusive deal of on-site accommodation; pre-ride breakfast; post-ride lunch; poolside bar with complimentary chilled beers or soft drinks and what appeared from the web site to be the inestimable benefit of the ideal “weapon of choice” to attack those tough Andalucian trails – FANTIC 250 trail bikes – was the front runner! That company was ‘Dirt Bike Holidays’ (DBH) and, after some initial enquiries and messages through their web site about dates and availability, it was “game on”! Dates were chosen, reservations made, deposits paid - time to start researching flights availability and get some sun cream in! Not much opportunity for that in the depths of a long, wet, Devon winter!

From the broad range of deals on offer at DBH we chose a four nights/three riding days package which, at £599 each and fully inclusive of accommodation; cooked breakfast and lunch; drinks at the villa; the bike, the fuel; all riding gear and the guide, was pretty much the lowest price and the highest “spec’d” offering of any of the group of companies I’d found, and it also seemed to be the most comprehensive fully inclusive package available. This level of inclusivity had enormous benefits insomuch as there was no need to lug any heavy bike gear to/from and around the airport, or take up precious cabin-only luggage space with bulky items like helmets, boots, jackets, etc.; there was no need to worry about accommodation; finding places to eat and drink or worry about when and where to find fuel, etc… I kind of “get” the idea of package holidays and, in some ways, DBH follows the same principle - though in a rather more relaxed way. My only initial concern was that, from the web site information and the judicious use of google searches and google maps, it seemed clear that the journeys from Malaga airport to DBH and back were going to need to be arranged. Added to that, the location of DBH on the rural outskirts of the small town of Archidona suggested that having transportation available during our stay, though not wholly necessary, would be a very practical proposition so it was almost a default decision to organise a hire car to be available for collection at the airport.

The hire car became an even more obvious requirement when, following incidental and separate conversations with my brother and my brother-in-law they each decided they wanted to join in the fun! After a number of email conversations with Kay at DBH I had confirmation that the 2 extra guests could be accommodated - the duet had become a full-fledged foursome! Boys and toys, eh? There was an unexpected bonus in having signed up two more targets ……sorry – candidates, and that was a discounted rate per person of £550!! Luckily, DBH had the space and the inclination to take on the group though, sadly, another former colleague and friend who also wanted to join us was unfortunate in being turned down – we would have to be the Fantastic Four rather than the Famous Five?

Having managed to get the foursome primed and ready, it immediately became obvious that a hire car was going to be needed. It was important that the hire car company should be actually on airport – that is to say not just have a desk at the airport with vehicles and facilities situated off-site as many companies are. The on-airport location was doubly important for our return journey as the flight was scheduled to depart at 06:50 meaning we needed to be at the check-in desk no later than 05:00 and there was, understandably, little enthusiasm for the idea of dropping the car off half a mile away and hoping for an early morning ride into the airport from the rental car depot. This particular problem seemed almost to magically solve itself when a promotion email (one of a now endless stream!) arrived from RYANAIR for discounted hire car rates with a company called FIREFLY and some searching showed that they’re one of the companies with pick-up and drop-off facilities at the airport. It seemed the Gods of Travel were listening to me ………… perhaps not! I’ve made many, many mistakes in my life but the choice of this company for a hire car booking definitely constitutes one of the worst I’ve made in quite some time!

The signs were anything but good when we arrived at the in-terminal car hire desk a few minutes later than expected to find just 2 desks in operation, each occupied with very clearly rather irate customers. There was a duet of frenetic Spanish volatility on display – much hand waving and animated activity on well used keyboards; rapid fire, staccato conversation and emphatic, fiery glares at clearly annoyed customers. I watched the display with unsuppressed trepidation – it was my turn next! I kept telling myself that all would be well – we’d booked the car hire ‘through’ Ryanair so I was sure all would be well ……. and I had to keep telling myself exactly that as we waited and waited to get to speak to one of the assistants. All comes to he who waits, right? Well, in this case, I very soon wished it hadn’t. When I finally got to speak to an assistant I was still hopeful that it would be a matter of “here’s my licence; here’s my booking reference – where’s the key and my car?” You just KNOW that wasn’t the case, don’t you? It seems this company makes it a policy to almost blackmail and/or browbeat their erstwhile customers to take out additional comprehensive insurance – classic “upselling” but on an industrial scale and very hard line! Anyway, long story short - and in deference to the still raw scars on my psyche - we must have spent well over an hour at that desk before we could finally get hold of the keys and trek down to the car park to find the car I’d reserved for four days. The car turned out to be a nearly new Renault Megane and was quiet, comfortable and spacious enough for the 50 or so minute journey ahead of us in the darkness of a balmy Andalucian evening ……… actually, by the time we reached our destination it was a chilly Andalucian early morning! Our poor, innocent host, Kay, had been patiently awaiting our arrival for far more hours than I cared to contemplate and was eager to show us to our rooms and then quickly get some sleep! The idea of sleep was paramount for me, too so, after this long, stressful and tiring day I was expecting to quickly sink into the arms of Morpheus. That turned out to be a more hopeful than actual proposition as I discovered just how much – and how loudly - my brother my two companions and, of course, myself, all snore! Note to self – next time pack the custom made ear defenders ……………………………

Our first day of riding dawned warm and sunny and set the tone for the rest of this short, brilliant and busy holiday. Breakfast was scheduled for 0900 so even the inordinately late arrival still afforded a reasonable window of sleep opportunity. Breakfast was served outside on the patio between villa and pool and beneath the welcome shade of a canopy. The bright, warm sunshine was something with which we all had to quickly re-acquaint ourselves – not exactly a chore after the last few weeks of, in the south west at least, almost constant cloud and rain! We were then able to try on the kit allocated to us according to the size specs we’d submitted – for the most part it was a fairly straightforward exercise with the occasional change required to accommodate the variability of manufacturers’ versions of international sizes! I found the nearest fit in boots to be something two sizes adrift of the admittedly ancient road boots I wear as a norm so I had to try on at least three different pairs before I could get something close enough for comfort – so to speak! DBH provide all the kit required - except underclothes – so strap-on body armour; textile pants; shirt; boots, gloves and enduro style crash helmet. The helmets were all-new WULFSPORT moto helmets with one touch flip up face shield and lever operated drop-down internal sun visor. They were light, practical and very comfortable indeed and, if you use a dual purpose, trail type bike on road I’d suggest that they would not look out of place in the “urban jungle”!

Following the dressing-up box and clothes swap-shop exercise we gathered for an introduction to our host, guide, bike guru and de facto guardian Steve; a check of experience and a briefing on what to expect from the day and then we were introduced to the FANTIC 250s that would be our companions/saviours/guides/carriages et al for the next 3 days. Being of the diminutive type (‘short arse’ is just so crude!) I was allocated to a modified, low ride height bike for the duration of the holiday – a very sensible move that had been suggested/proposed by Kay and happily accepted by me …… saved all the hassle of constantly getting out the mounting block or finding a strategically placed and shaped boulder by which to park at the rest stops!! ;-))

The briefing was short and we were soon on our way heading into the bright morning sunlight with – for me at least - huge amounts of nervous anticipation. A ‘tail gunner’ duty was assigned to Tony which meant he’d be sweeper and operate a bike to bike comms system with the leader, Steve, in case of incident. It didn’t take very long before we darted off the minor road on which we’d set off and straight onto a rough, rutted dirt path and into the wider rough, dry and rocky terrain of the surrounding open countryside. I’m not sure which of us mentioned it subsequently but it did seem, in retrospect, to have been a good comment to make in suggesting that it might have been a good idea for Steve, the ride leader, to have directed the group to an off-road area where a couple of fairly simple observed exercises could have been undertaken by each of us to demonstrate some idea of the levels of off road riding ability of each of us in what was, after all, an entirely alien motorcycle riding environment. My personal exposure to off-road riding is very limited and the previous experience – in Spain – was on a highly unsuitable (for me) machine and might have deterred me completely if it hadn’t been for DBH operating the Fantics. Even on the Fantic, I found it a real and serious challenge in some of the (to me) very difficult terrain and was constantly trying to evaluate how/when/whether I could operate the clutch; the brakes and the throttle. I spent my first off road day with my backside firmly glued to the vestigial saddle of the little Italian stallion as that was slightly easier than trying to overcome 50 odd years of ‘knowing’ that maintaining a low CoG is essential for a stable handling machine regardless (in my head) of the nature of the machine and the environment in which it’s operating!! I was, of course, utterly wrong – at least in this environment – and on days two and three I managed to convince my stubborn head and ancient body that getting up out of the saddle and onto my feet with my chin ‘over the handlebar’ was a perfectly natural and suitable stance at the pace and over the terrain which I was on. Yeah, right! Actually, for the most part it didn’t seem too bad and it did have the highly practical benefit that it seemed to help me avoid those comical ‘Laurel-and-Hardy-esque’ moments I’d enjoyed on day one where I’d be moving forward at what felt like breakneck speed with the front wheel flapping wildly from side to side; the back wheel fishtailing in a seemingly turbulent opposition; my legs splayed out pointing forwards and dabbing successively to each side as I tried to convince myself that I was actually in control and going somewhere within an order of magnitude close to where I SHOULD be going! Poetry in motion, that!!! PAH! Not even if you could consider Professor Stanley UNWIN to be a poet!! Actually, thinking about it, that last rhetorical reference is rather likely to be utterly lost on 90% of the people reading this rubbish! Ah well, it’s keeping me occupied until the nurse brings round the afternoon meds……………………

So, I have no doubt someone out there might be brave or foolish enough to have read thus far in a state of highly strung anticipation or expectation of a wordy description of me stacking the bike into a large, prickly sage bush; dumping it into a drainage ditch or pitching myself off the side of the bike on one of those wholly-out-of-control rocky hillside descents that our illustrious leader seemed to keep taking us down. Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that it didn’t happen ………………………. to me, at least!

Yes, the inevitable did happen to one of us on day one and, sadly, it was my ‘baby bruvver’! I call him that as a result of the ultimate irony and weird imagery of him being built like the proverbial brick outhouse standing over 6 feet tall – heck, his legs aren’t far off longer than my full height! I exaggerate (but only slightly) for comedic effect! I digress.

At the start of our first day’s ride there was, inevitably, an almost palpable sense of unspoken trepidation. None of us would lay claim to recent or even relevant experience of trail riding and by the time we reached the coffee stop at around 1130’ish there was a lot of brow wiping, nervous laughter and animated descriptions of the degrees of difficulty that we’d all suffered – but ,mastered - when tackling the (to our minds) vertiginous climbs and drops; crater sized ruts and massive berms, and boulder strewn, dusty trails we’d just been tested on. Heck, BAJA here we come!! Bring that sh!t on………….

Anyway, caffeine recharged; reality check reloaded we headed back into the wilds in the same riding order – I was second in line behind my brother-in-law, Ian – and I must digress here to say that, before going out on this trip with us, Ian hadn’t actually ridden a motorcycle – ANY motorcycle – for some 40 years! He had to order extra large trousers to accommodate the CMG (Cojones Muy Grande) medal awarded for this act of unswerving bravery. SO…. uhmmmm…… where were we? Oh yeah, the riding order…… Steve; Ian, me, my baby brother Reg., then tail end Tony. I’d occasionally try to drag my eyes away from the terrifying terrain that lay before me and check that my brother was still with me – he’d apparently occasionally drag his eyes away from the terrain to get another momentary laugh out of my risible attempts at steering the self-willed machine beneath me towards somewhere vaguely in the direction of the point of ground covered by the two lead riders. On a particularly steep, dusty and seemingly gripless section of trail I lost sight of both Reg and Tony and was more than a bit concerned when, at the top of the rise, Steve and Ian had stopped and were looking beyond me and back down the hill. Steve then turned his bike - you know what it’s like ……. I’d have required the width of a rugby pitch and would have been paddlefooting it round in that “threepenny bit – half a crown” fashion, Steve turned his head, yanked the throttle and suddenly appeared next to me like he’d been magically lifted and dropped there! “Stay here for a moment” he said, then rapidly disappeared back down the slope in a cloud of dust. He was back a short while after but on Reg’s bike – “WTF?” came immediately to mind as he disappeared again down the hill on foot. Reg then appeared looking a bit shellshocked and Steve then Tony. Reg got back on his bike and the group resumed our journey ‘homewards’ without notable incident. It was only when we were all gathered back at the villa, removing helmets and gloves; rubbing sweaty scalps and quietly mentally formulating how big we could make our stories of leery slides saved; jumps performed (unseen of course); tree branches dodged etc., that we learned that Reg. had stacked his bike in the classic fashion of looking directly at the rather large boulder he was reluctantly but rapidly heading towards! I think the saying is “look to where you want to be, not to where you’re going” … or words to that effect. Now, in an odd irony Reg knows that – perhaps better than anyone. He’s a police trained, class 1 advanced rider (and driver) with many, many years of operational policing riding experience on large, fast police motorcycles – liveried and covert – so he openly acknowledges that it’s impossible to explain exactly how he managed to allow himself to get target fixation on that rock; how he managed to come off the bike and land smack bang on the rock, and how, in the ultimate of all ironies, he landed directly with the sharp, raised edge of that rock positioning itself strategically between his back and chest armour and smack bang in the middle of his rib cage!! Yeah, that HAD to hurt – big time. With some degree of good fortune we weren’t very far out from base and were on the return so he didn’t have to suffer too long and the shock effect got him through that last section of the journey.

And “last section of the journey” became, regrettably, somewhat literal as, once we’d returned to base and the pain killers he took started to wear off, it slowly became clear that the riding component of this trip was over for him. The pain killers ameliorated the discomfort but never fully addressed the level of pain he was in and it was clear that any further riding on this trip riding was simply out of the question. It’s almost certain that he’s cracked or displaced at least one rib and there’s really little that can be done – other than effective pain relief; rest and recuperation. And no more dust diving onto boulders? It did, I’m sure, make the holiday seem like an expensive and time consuming day’s trail ride but, I guess, these are the risks we take for the rewards of the pastime that we all love so much. Who here would not risk that or deny awareness of the potential consequence?

Day 1 of our adventure holiday had been highly eventful but none of us wanted to repeat that particular level of adventure in the course of the remainder of the holiday and, fortunately, nobody really tried – beyond a last-riding-day low side drop by Ian on a slow, twisty section through some olive groves. No damage done to either man or machine and no drama – nothing to see here, move along ……………

The last two riding days were more of the same, perhaps a little bit more challenging in places – I have an unsubstantiated feeling that Steve was quietly, subtly stretching the boundaries of our experience in places but always watchful and mindful of the ability and the safety of the remaining 3 riders. We did have the added ”excitement” of encountering an organized cycle race/ride on our 3rd riding day – the Sunday. On a fairly steep and very rough mountain track Steve slowed considerably and a few moments later a group of 3 or 4 bicycle riders came hurtling past us at a pace I wouldn’t have wanted to ride a motorcycle, let alone something as flimsy and unsubstantial as a dual terrain pedal cycle. The thought of throwing one of those bikes – plus one’s self as rider – off the side of a steep, rocky mountain trail whilst wearing a lycra vest and shorts doesn’t exactly rate highly on the “pleasurable excitement” register in my tiny mind! Each to their own, I guess.

I should make mention of the fact that we had, shortly after arrival, been directed by Kay and Steve to a small, family restaurant in the nearby village of Salinas for our evening meal – breakfast and lunch are provided by DBH, as are afternoon beers for the real men and lemonade for lightweights like me – and the Restaurante Mejias in nearby SALINAS was all and more you could ask of a real local, family oriented village bar and restaurant. This was REAL life Spain not some plastic mock-up in a coastal town. Local and national dishes of good food at very reasonable prices and waiters and kitchen staff flexible enough to provide a plain omelette for fusspots like me! Our first visit was on Friday evening and the place had this wonderful, undefinable Spanish “vibe” to it. Not easy to describe, the vibe was probably as much to do with busy waiters flourishing and fitting paper table cloths with an almost theatrical flair. Or the children running around the place late into the evening. Or the local residents sitting beneath the canopied exterior dining area blithely blowing cigarette smoke into the air beneath a “NO SMOKING” sign! It was a treasure of a place – very good food; great service and - just like DirtBikeHolidays - it’s a place that I’m absolutely certain I WILL see again. We would almost certainly have used the place every evening but, on our last night there it wasn’t serving food when we got there so we went to the “upmarket” restaurant a few hundred yards beyond.

Sadly but inevitably, our short ‘adventure’ holiday was to end with a blurry eyed, early morning return to Malaga Airport setting off at around 03:30 local time. Despite the ridiculously early hour Kay was up to make sure we got away on time and were able to close the gate. Maybe there’s a hidden meaning in there? Somehow I really do doubt that – Kay and Steve were amazingly good hosts and it was one of the great pleasures of the trip to be sitting chilling out in the late afternoon sunshine being regaled by Steve’s stories of life in ‘Sarf Essix’ – a life that, thankfully (for us at least) is now well and truly hidden in the dark shadows formed by the strong light of the fierce Iberian sun.

Hopefully some of the photographs that I’ve tried to load to this post will give you some idea of the kind of terrain and the area in which DBH operate. I had taken a (cheap) ‘action camera’ with me and, when I mentioned it on ride day 2 Steve suggested trying to fit it to my bike before we left (I hadn’t been sure whether or not it would be allowed) but, unfortunately, there wasn’t an easy fixing point available so I abandoned the idea. Steve did suggest that he’d provide a helmet mount fitting but I think that offer must have been forgotten in the always busy run up to departing for a day’s ride. Had I been sensible enough I’d have taken the body worn chest mount that I have - somewhere - for the camera but, well - sensible? Moi? Nah. I’ll definintely remember it next time, though.

Steve did have a camera on the rear of his bike and part of the DBH package is that they can provide some footage via YouTube and the links to those should be below. They’ will, I hope, give a good, albeit brief representation of some of the terrain we enjoyed.

So, our Dirt Bike Holiday has, I’m pretty sure, been voted a success by all of us – even though one of the august band of brothers ‘took one for the team’……. thanks Reg! Hope that injury is healed in time for a return trip!

Hopefully some of the photographs that I’ve tried to load will give you some idea of the kind of terrain and the area in which DBH operate. This is a ruggedly beautiful part of Spain and the ability - privilege? - of getting into areas that most visitors are unlikely to see is one that I’ll treasure for some time. Hopefully much longer than the time that will have elapsed before I return for more of the same - and, if they’ll have me, it will be DBH to whom I’ll return! Maybe do the 4 day’s of riding next time - after all I can now stand on the pegs and everything … :grin:


Now that’s a write-up! :grin: Sounds like a great trip and a lot of fun. Haven’t checked out the videos yet but I’ll take a look later.

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That looks and sounds pretty spectacular!!!


I returned a couple of times :smiley:
Thanks for putting so much effort into that! And what a fun trip that looks, getting off the beaten path makes it especially special.


Adie, triff write up, triff holiday and triff that you can stand on the pegs and everything. :slightly_smiling_face:


That sounds like a real adventure! I hope your brother is recovering okay?

Great write up and pictures :+1:

@Iron. Many thanks for that!!

It was a triff trip all round though I now have the not uncommon, residual nightmare of a serious dose of (Spanish?) flu! If it wasn’t for the banging headaches, I think I’d just crawl into the nearest dark hole and die quietly … :face_vomiting:

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Awesome does not do your trip report justice. Fantastic amount of detail packed into an enjoyable read. Love the photos. :grinning:

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Thanks Neal.

It really WAS an adventure of sorts, and a very enjoayble one at that. Well, for 3 out of the 4 of us it was!

Reg is still suffering - he’s almost certainly got a couple of broken ribs - painful enough in itself but, with all the pain relief medication comes further problems which bear no open forum discussion - think Dulcolax … :face_with_thermometer: